For students across America, September means an end to summer vacation and a return to school. With each new year comes a little more responsibility, like taking school more seriously. School is a vital part of growing up. It requires dedication, commitment, and time, but it can also be fun and exciting. Whether you’re a kindergartner attending school for the first time or a senior attending school for the last time, here’s some advice on how to make this the best school year ever.
Tip #1: Develop the Right Perspective
If you’re going to have a great year, the first thing you need is the right perspective. We live in a culture that is monumentally confused about the purpose of education and students are constantly sent the banal message that school exists to “meet state standards” and “satisfy graduation requirements.” The result? Whole generations of students conditioned to conceive of education exclusively in measurable quantities, with diplomas, grades and jobs upon graduation topping the list. This kind of perspective on education is hollow, uninspiring, and leads directly to apathy and boredom.
It was once an axiom that education prepared us for living the good life (i.e. the life of wisdom and virtue not the life of hedonistic selfishness) and that the good life required a long, sustained program of intellectual and moral preparation aimed at maturity and literacy. Instead, in our fast food, “I want it now” society, students routinely feel guilty about being in a preparation phase (why waste time reading Shakespeare when you should be developing software to be the next Bill Gates?). Rather than prepare students for college, whole high school educational industries exist to help students “get college out of the way” by offering watered down associate degrees upon graduation from high school.
From Kindergarten to 12th grade, having the right perspective on your school experience means self-consciously embracing your time as a student as a legitimate calling and vocation; the occupation of being a student. The job of a student is to search for truth, broaden intellectual horizons in many directions, develop talents, cultivate character, and ultimately realize the potential of full humanity. It is to learn lessons about friendship, hard work, perseverance, patience, kindness, and diligence. It requires a sustained and sequential program of cognitive, social, spiritual, and physical development spanning the earliest years through adulthood.
Tip #2: Check Your Attitude
For some students, school work comes naturally and they enjoy the rigor of books and learning. For other students, school work is hard and seems unnatural. Regardless of where students fall on that spectrum, the key to having a great year is maintaining a positive attitude.
In a memorable scene from Milton’s famous, Paradise Lost, upon revolting from God and drawing to his side many legions of angels, Satan is cast out of Heaven to the darkness of Pandemonium. Satan muses: “The mind is its own thing, and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell or a Hell of Heaven.” Though spoken through the mouthpiece of the prince of darkness, the truth of the statement remains apropos.Attitude affects everything and can make a student’s time at school whatever they want it to be. It can be fun and exciting, something students will look back on with wonderful memories, or it can be a living nightmare. It all depends on attitude. At the end of the day, whether students think they can or they can’t, they are right!
Tip # 3: Keep Your Priorities Straight
Working in a Christian School, I encourage students to prioritize their lives in the following order: God, Family, School, Everything Else. Keeping God as the number one priority doesn’t necessarily mean students spend all their time in church and in prayer. It does mean, however, that a student’s relationship with God should be the most important relationship in their life. Neglect of that vital spiritual connection will leave students without an anchor for their soul through the up and down trials and circumstances of their lives. School is a vital part of growing up and students who have a growing and deepening relationship with their Creator develop a strong sense of peace and contentment regardless of changing circumstances in their lives.
School can be overwhelming at times and it’s important for students to make time for their families. Next to God, healthy family relationships are the second most important relationships in the life of a student. Making time for cultivating healthy relationships with parents, siblings, and grandparents is essential to having the correct balance and harmony in a student’s life.
After making time for God and family, students must see their school work as the 3rd highest priority in their lives. As mentioned before, being a student is a calling and a vocation, a vital preparation for their adult lives. They need to approach their studies with appropriate levels of time, concentration, diligence, and grit. Neglect of their education will have a ripple effect on their entire lives.
Tip # 4: Organize for Success
Successful people in any calling and vocation, are highly organized. Students are no exception. To flourish in their calling as learners, students need to stay organized and keep ahead of the game. Nothing is more miserable than falling behind and getting in a rut academically. To avoid this, students must maintain disciplined habits of time management and planning. Keeping track of multiple assignments and deadlines can be daunting for any student. I highly recommend students make a habit of keeping an organized planner, meticulously updated and constantly reviewed, to stay ahead of the game. I also recommend students keep a consistent time and place – free from distractions – for accomplishing homework and studying for tests.
Tip # 5: Try Different Things
School offers lots and lots of opportunities for students to get involved and try new things like sports, drama, music, and art. God has given students interests, talents and abilities that they might not even know they possess unless given the opportunity to discover. This discovery process is the whole point of their education and requires students to have the courage to try different things. This opens up the world to them and expands their horizons in surprising and interesting ways. Students should be encouraged to experiment and branch out rather than sticking to what they already know they can do.
While these 5 tips won’t guarantee school will be easy, we guarantee that if students follow them, they will grow and mature into the person God intends for them to be. School, like everything good in life, requires hard work and diligence. But teachers and parents are here to help make each year of school the best school year ever.